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Getting back to Business

John joined this week’s online UK-Nigeria session from Abuja, where he was due to attend a number of meetings - the most significant of which from our point of view was with the French Embassy. At this, John was to discuss the promised support for Attachab. Meanwhile Kelechi and Chollom joined us from Fantsuam while the UK provided three participants, based in Leeds and London.

We were pleased to hear there are reports of some semblance of normality returning to Kafanchan as people of all faiths were beginning to interact at the old and new market sites.

John informed us that as yet there have been no Government directives on the re-building of the market. Apparently it is not yet seen as a priority. He said the Committee was going to see how best to fit/feed into whatever the Government may eventually choose to do. In the meantime they are trying to meet the needs of their local community.

John also informed us that so far one woman has collected her N30,000 loan towards restarting her business - and that the remaining six beneficiaries will receive theirs when Comfort returns.

These women clients were selected by the field officer. John believes that five are  Christian and the remaining two are Muslim. This reflects the proportion of these religions in FF’s clientele. John also pointed out that each woman trader is in turn supporting at least six family members, including their children, spouse, aged parents etc

Empowering women to rebuild their community

Regular readers of this blog will know that the weekly UK-Nigeria meeting has been dominated of late by the aftermath of the post-Election violence in Kafanchan. This week’s meeting was, predictably, no exception.

Previously we had been told that the field officers from the Microfinance programme had been afraid to visit their clients in the Muslim Areas due to safety fears.

This time, John Dada related the tale of Grace, one of the field workers who - despite the danger - felt compelled to visit one of her clients who had suffered bereavement in the Muslim ares of Kafanchan. “In Nigeria, certain things have to be done face-to-face,” he explained. “Condolence visits are a face-to-face affair and it carries so much meaning to the bereaved.”

To everyone’s relief Grace returned unscathed. But as John remarked: ”The incident highlighted the extent of the breakdown of trust between the communities and, for me, it also shows the hidden strength of our women. It is they who bear the brunt of the violence and yet, it is they who take the first steps to heal their communities. Grace doesn't accept that she was brave, and in fact some of the staff thought she was foolish. But I recognised the deeper value of what she has done, which really is what women have been doing for ages.”

Rumours of continued reprisal killings remain rife and John added: ”There are no truths in these rumours and you can see that both sides are equally affected by them. I have asked the R3 team (Rehabilitation, Reconstruction + Resources) to work out how we may begin to send out text messages of reassurance to counter these rumours and give truthful up to date information to people.”

Woman - Trading for Peace

Although the world’s gaze appears to have moved on from the post-election violence in North Nigeria,  this topic stills dominates the weekly UK-Nigeria online meeting.

John Dada and his team at Fantsuam continue to deal with the aftermath of the turmoil.

They reported that:

Phoenix gradually emerging from the fire

We were pleased to catch up online with some familiar ‘faces’ at the UK-Nigeria team meeting this week. However it was clear from our discussion that although the post-electoral violence in Kaduna State has subsided - helped by the continued presence of soldiers - things were still not back to normal. It became evident that in the wake of the destruction there is much rebuilding to be done, both physically and emotionally.

On the physical side, many buildings and homes were destroyed. In previous blogs you can read about the destruction of the vibrant Kafanchan market and the emergence of a peace initiative designed to reconcile warring parties. Comfort said: “The burning of houses and the market has affected people's disposable income, but …. some form of business seems to be coming up."

Emotionally the community needs to come to term with the fear they experienced and the sights they saw and to deal with any anger towards the people who have inflicted further hardships upon them. The efforts of Fantsuam Foundation, together with other local civil societies and the Kafanchan Peace Market  Plans has a vital role in the reconciliation process.

It appears that on the surface some semblance of normality is returning. Fantsuam Foundation has itself re-opened this week and trading is taking place on the new site for the Kafanchan market. However, this is merely embryonic as Bala, the head of Zittnet, said: “Everyone needs to 'sleep with one eye open', but generally nights are quiet. There's still tension, that’s what caused the trouble to escalate so much in the first place. But soldiers are around so there is relative peace."

Hope amid the chaos

Ever since since news of the outbreak of violence in Kafanchan reached the UK, the weekly UK-Nigeria team meetings have been a source of apprehension rather than the customary excitement. Will someone there be able to join us online? What news will there be? Has anyone else been hurt or left homeless amid the unrest?

All these thoughts occupy our minds as we prepare for the regular sessions - so we were naturally delighted that three members of the Nigeria team were able to join us last week.

It also came as a great relief to hear Comfort reassure us about events in her country,

“It's been quite stressful, but things are getting calmer,” she said. “People are still afraid - that is the feeling - but we pray that the violence ends very soon, so we can get back to normal.”

Ironically, one of the effects of the conflict is that Fantsuam has not yet been able to resume its normal service and so is unusually quiet. This in turn has meant Comfort, whose workload as General Manager of Microfinance often leaves her unable to join the meetings, has been in a position to attend online. With regard to the lack of normal activity, she told us: “Field officers have to be sure the communities we work in are safe before they can go there.”

Kafanchan Peace Market:
Following the destruction of the vital local market we were very pleased to receive an encouraging update from the Nigerian team.

Kafanchan Peace Market Initiative - Press release

BLOODY post-election violence in rural Kafanchan, Nigeria, has sadly resulted in hundreds of casualties and the senseless destruction of the area’s vital market.

With lives on the line and a humanitarian crisis gripping the region, a new initiative is being launched to salvage hope and lasting peace from this catastrophe.

UK-Nigeria weekly meetings

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Dadamac UK-Nigeria team meetings are held on Skype, and are typed. They have a set agenda and last for one hour. You can read the unfolding story of all the community initiatives covered in these meetings, mainly through Nikki's blog and Frances' blog (with a few gaps filled in through Pamela's blog which usually covers other topics).

Update about the Almari 'Street Children'.

This is the latest report from Frances - which further illustrates the support that Fantsuam Foundation offers its disadvantaged and diverse community.

Last Friday we ( Frances the author and John) went to visit the Almajari  who are being supported by Fantsuam Foundation.

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